Louis Antoine Muhire, a Rwandan refugee living in Canada, visited Rwanda for the first time in 20 years after fleeing the country in 1994.
For over 20 years, Muhire had never considered returning to his country because of numerous negative reports about Rwanda, spreading in the Diaspora.
“I read a few good reports about Rwanda’s development, but I wouldn’t risk coming back,” he says.
But, “The bad reports outweighed the good ones,” he adds.
For example, “I was told that I would get jailed or killed the moment I set feet in Rwanda,” Muhire says.
Apparently Muhire was told he would be held captive over his father’s genocide crimes, only to be proven wrong during the 15 days he spent in Rwanda.
Muhire is one of the millions of Rwandans who have returned home due to government efforts to repatriate Rwandan refugees.
“My father is wanted by Interpol, but this never stopped the Rwandan embassy in Canada to grant me a temporary passport to Rwanda, when I expressed interest to visit,” says Muhire.
The Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs (MIDMAR) says 3,456,429 registered Rwandan refugees have returned home between 1994 and December 2014. Muhire is one of them.
About 47% (1,625,869) came from DR Congo, 27% (922,655 ) from Tanzania, 16% (553,118) from Burundi, 10% (349,838) from Uganda.
Others came from Gabon, Malawi, Zambia, Congo Brazzavile, Cameroon, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, among other countries.
An estimated 100,000 Rwandan refugees still reside in different countries.
On June 30, 2013, Rwanda declared a cessation clause for Rwandan refugees who fled the country between 1959 and December 1998.
Countries hosting Rwandan refugees were called on to declare them or abide by the clause. Since then Zambia, Malawi, DR Congo, Burundi, Niger and Zimbabwe have invoked the cessation clause.
Meanwhile, Rwanda has used different measures to ensure return.
Transit camps established in the Western Province receive the returnees and provide them with basic facilities to begin a new life.
Rwanda has collaborated with UNHCR and WFP, to register returnees and donate a three-month repatriation package, which includes food and other basics.
The package offered by UNHCR is worth $100 for adults and $50 for children.
But for returnees of Muhire’s status, all they need is the feeling of ‘being back home’.